Wednesday, July 12

Israel - Lebanon and the Regional Conflict: Casus Belli?

A swiftly tilting planet. The dispute over Iran's nuclear program seems to drag on forever. But events unrelated to the mullahs' nukes could force a confrontation sooner rather than later ... whether the UN and the IAEA like it or not.

Washington's strong language against Syria, Iran. The Belmont Club notes the exceptionally strong language in a recent White House press release: 'The United States condemns in the strongest terms this unprovoked act of terrorism, which was timed to exacerbate already high tensions in the region and sow further violence. We also hold Syria and Iran, which have provided long-standing support for Hizballah, responsible for today's violence. ... Hizballah's terrorist operations threaten Lebanon's security and are an affront to the sovereignty of the Lebanese Government.' As they say in the language of international relations: Them's fightin' words. Wretchard also quotes Israel calling the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers "an act of war by the state of Lebanon against the state of Israel" which would bring a "very painful and far-reaching" response. Wretchard doesn't like the sound of this: 'If Israel strikes at the Lebanese government it will be very damaging, I think, to all the efforts made to kick Syria out.'

Mah ha-matzav? Also via Wretchard, Israel Matzav quotes a knowledgeable source: 'RUMORS FLYING THAT EHUD OLMERT WILL BE DECLARING WAR TONIGHT ... IN GAZA, MOHAMMED DEIF, LEADER OF HAMAS, LOST OTHER LEG AND ARM, NOT DEAD YET FROM LAST NIGHT'S IAF AERIAL BOMBING ON A NON EMPTY BUILDING (RABBIS SAID ''SHEHACHAYINU" ' Contrary to what's reported here: 'A missile strike on the building killed nine, including a senior Hamas official, his wife and seven children. But according to Israeli sources, Deif escaped with injuries.' But AP says: 'The top fugitive, Mohammed Deif, could end up paralyzed, Palestinian security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his condition. Wednesday's blast marked the army's fourth attempt to kill Deif, held responsible for suicide bombings in Israel. In a 2002 missile strike, he lost an eye.' Mahatma Gandhi could not be reached for comment.

Debka on Iran/Syria contacts. Latest bulletin from Debka:
Iran’s national security adviser Ali Larijani flies to Damascus aboad special military plane Wednesday night as war tension builds up around Hizballah kidnap of 2 Israeli soldiers. Larijani is also Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator. He will remain in Damascus for the duration of the crisis in line with the recently Iranian-Syrian mutual defense pact. His presence affirms that an Israeli attack on Syria will be deemed an assault on Iran. It also links the Israeli hostage crisis to Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West. The White House released a statement holding Syria and Iran responsible for Hizballah abduction and demanding their immediate and unconditional release. The Syrian army has been put on a state of preparedness. DEBKAfile’s military sources add that the Iranian air force, missile units and navy are also on high alert. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report Hizballah acted on orders from Tehran to open a second front against Israel, partly to ease IDF military pressure on the Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This was in response to an appeal Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal made to the Iranian ambassador to Damascus Mohammad Hassan Akhtari Sunday, July 9. DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources report Tehran’s rationale as composed of three parts: 1. Iran shows the flag as a champion and defender of its ally, Hamas. 2. Sending Hizballah to open a warfront against Israel is the logical tactical complement to its latest order to go into action against American and British forces in southern Iraq. 3. Tehran hopes to hijack the agenda before the G-8 summit opening in St. Petersberg, Russia on July 15. Instead of discussing Iran’s nuclear case and the situation in Iraq along the lines set by President George W. Bush, the leaders of the industrial nations will be forced to address the Middle East flare-up. ...

Commentary. Well, we know that Iran and Syria have a strategic partnership, and presumably each is expected to regard an attack on the other as an attack on itself. So if Syria becomes formally involved in a shooting war with Israel, Iran probably won't be far behind; but as our Government has been at pains to point out lately, we are prepared to defend Israel. What could very easily happen is that the parties will square off into an Iran/Syria vs Israel/US war - and this could happen very fast. Notwithstanding the IRI's projections, Washington could use this as an occasion to launch strikes directly against Iran - rendering the UN and its blather irrelevant. If there's one thing George W. Bush ought to have learned by now, it's not to stake the rationale for a war on the discovery of WMD. An open Israeli-Syrian conflict could provide him with a whole other rationale.

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